by Samantha Rullo
There is no doubt that 2012 was a great year for television. Both comedies and dramas alike attained new heights in their performances, storylines and overall quality. But 2012 was also a unique year for television, when many changes that had been gradually progressing finally made their effects clear.
These changes have shown that 2012 was an exceptional year for television audiences, but not for the major networks. The popularity of TV shows on cable channels, especially dramas, has been steadily expanding, and as 2012 comes to a close, cable is poised to dominate in 2013. This year’s Primetime Emmy Awards marked the first time that not a single network show was nominated in the Outstanding Drama Series category, and cable was heavily represented in the Outstanding Comedy Series nominations as well.
The Highlighter’s Top 10 list, separated into the Top 5 Comedies and Top 5 Dramas, reflects this change most in the Drama list, where only one major network show made the cut. With ranked submissions from many different writers and contributors to the entertainment section, the list represents the opinions of a diverse group with varied taste in television. From new shows that premiered to immediate acclaim to returning shows that hit a series high this year, here are The Highlighter’s Top 10 Television Shows of 2012, the shows that kept us glued to the screen all year.
5. Don’t Trust The B—- in Apartment 23
by Catherine Tan
Deliciously absurd, the show sails through its second season with so much cartoonish silliness that its jokes are never offensive. The highlight is obviously James Van Der Beek gleefully poking fun at the lifestyles of washed up celebrities, but the show’s lead actresses manage to hold their own through a series of inconsequential escapades. Join the madness at any point; it’s easy to catch up with the plot.
by Catherine Tan
For old fans who abandoned the show or those who have never seen an episode, loyal viewers will proudly proclaim that Season 4 is the new Season 1. Clever writing, great song choices, and an unexpectedly strong balance between the New York and McKinley storylines have breathed new life into the show.
Unfortunately, 2012 has been a short year for “Community,” only containing the second half of Season 3, with the fourth season premiere delayed until 2013. Still, “Community” can accomplish in half of a season what most other shows can do in a full year. Need proof? Just watch “Digital Estate Planning,” an episode from May that was done in the style of an 8-bit video game.
Probably the most controversial show on the list, Lena Dunham’s HBO comedy earned as much criticism as it did praise with its first season. But there is no denying that “Girls” is funny, with relatable storylines, excellent writing, and some raunchy humor (possibly the contribution of executive producer Judd Apatow). Some may hate it, but we’re looking forward to what Season 2 brings for Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna after a surprising first season finale.
1. Parks & Recreation
The easy standout of NBC’s Thursday night lineup, “Parks & Recreation” brought its best material in 2012. The second half of Season 4 followed the end of Leslie Knope’s campaign for Pawnee City Council, allowing Amy Poehler to deliver countless excellent performances. The rest of the cast has been exceptional too, most notably Nick Offerman, who has continued to give more depth, and humor, to Ron Swanson as the show goes on. So far, Season 5 has maintained the perfect balance of comedic and heartfelt moments that in 2012 became the show’s signature.
5. American Horror Story
It’s safe to say that “American Horror Story” changed the most between 2011 and 2012 than any other show on this list. Thanks to Ryan Murphy’s announcement that the show would in fact be a miniseries, it came back in 2012 as “American Horror Story: Asylum,” with a new setting and characters, but thankfully, some returning actors. The result is another darkly entertaining season with more twisted characters, and another year of the brilliant Jessica Lange.
The only major network drama to make the list, “Revenge” finished its delightfully soapy first season in 2012 with an explosive finale, returning later in the year to high expectations for Season 2. So far, the second season has been full of twists, but not quite of the caliber the show’s fans had anticipated. Hopefully, 2013 can restore “Revenge” back to its Season 1 glory.
by Alex Greenberger
The second season of “Homeland” may have been more uneven than its first, but this season continued the show’s fantastic run, pushing the plot farther than anyone ever expected in the process and providing at least one pulse-pounding moment in every episode. The season ended on a shocking note, with each character’s fate ambiguous, and it seems that “Homeland” will only continue to get better as it goes on.
2. Breaking Bad
by Alex Greenberger
In a season that continued to probe the depths of humanity as Walter White descends further into inhumanity, “Breaking Bad” took the show to new heights. The finale’s stunning cliffhanger is just a sample of some of the surprises the season had to offer. With only eight episodes before the show’s end, “Breaking Bad” is as strong as ever, and the fifth season only stands as proof.
1. Mad Men
After an unbearable 19-month hiatus, “Mad Men” returned for its fifth season without breaking its stride. Starting with the unforgettable premiere, featuring the new Mrs. Draper singing “Zou Bisou Bisou,” each episode brought more intense moments, and the brilliant acting we’ve become accustomed to from Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery and the rest of the cast. However if 2012 (or 1967) belongs to anyone, it’s Christina Hendricks. From a new baby to a divorce, to her unexpected turn in “The Other Woman,” Hendricks truly delivered during a season where Joan stood out over the men of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Samantha Rullo is entertainment editor. Alex Greenberger and Catherine Tan are staff writers. Email them at email@example.com
“Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23″ – newsok.com
“Glee” – spoilertv.com
“Community” – screenspy.com
“Girls” – stylishthought.com
“Parks & Recreation” – avclub.com
“American Horror Story” – eonline.com
“Revenge” – eonline.com
“Homeland” – nydailynews.com
“Breaking Bad” - sidereel.com
“Mad Men” - luckymag.com